As Boise State is out of the Mountain West championship game, and the conference does not slot its bowl berths, instead allowing the bowls to pick, the Broncos could wind up just about anywhere next month.
“You know what, not right now,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Friday after the loss at Air Force, when asked about a preference. “I really don’t even know the options to be honest with you. I will, I’ll have an opinion on it eventually, when we sit down and kind of figure out what we’re doing.”
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Even after falling out of the polls Sunday (more on that below), the 10-2 Broncos are an appealing option for bowl games. Here’s a look at the Mountain West-affiliated bowls and my thoughts on the likelihood of each.
LAS VEGAS (Dec. 17)
Opponent: Pac-12, though unlikely to fill, so could be from any conference with extra bowl-eligible teams.
Even though the Broncos didn’t win their division, they are in play for the bowl, which gets first choice of Mountain West teams. The bowl is not obligated to take the conference champion. Would San Diego State, which travels poorly, get a shot? The bowl picked BYU last year to play Utah over the league champion Aztecs. Would a 9-4 Wyoming be appealing? Their fans would travel, but Boise State would have a better national appeal. Also, the Broncos haven’t played in the game under Harsin, and it would allow players to be home for Christmas, so there is certainly interest on their end.
NEW MEXICO (Dec. 17)
Opponent: Conference USA (likely 6-6 UTSA or Southern Miss)
Would the bowl want to keep the hometown Lobos once again? New Mexico’s last three bowl games have been played in Albuquerque in 2006, 2007 and 2015. If the team expresses an interest in moving, it could present an opening, but even then, it might be too far down the pecking order for Boise State to be available.
POINSETTIA (Dec. 21)
The Broncos not only played in this bowl last year, they played BYU in October. As much as the Cougars may want a rematch, they do play again next season, too. If San Diego State is willing to stay home (they played in the bowl in 2010, 2012 and 2014), that could be an interesting, physical matchup. Or it could be a good spot for Wyoming fans to spend bowl week against an old WAC rival. Keep an eye on Air Force here, too.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO (Dec. 22)
Opponent: Mid-American Conference (9-3 Toledo, 6-6 Central Michigan, 6-6 Miami are possibilities)
If there was ever a time in the last decade staying at home was an option for Boise State, this is it. If the upper-tier Mountain West bowls stick with the two division champions (San Diego State and Wyoming) and grab, say, Air Force, then the Broncos might be staying and playing in the bowl for the first time since 2005. Would they want to? They haven’t been keen on it in the past, and an intriguing opponent may be the only reason to this year.
HAWAII (Dec. 24)
Opponent: Conference USA (Southern Miss or 9-3 Old Dominion may fit)
Boise State played in the game in 2007 and 2013, losing both. The Broncos also played at Hawaii earlier this season. Oh, and Hawaii, at 6-7, will be able to play in the game, almost certainly will be picked to stay home.
CACTUS (Dec. 27)
Opponent: Big 12 (TCU, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State)
The wild card. Since the Pac-12 will almost certainly not fill its spot in the Phoenix-based bowl, the Mountain West has the backup agreement. Boise State has not played a Big 12 team since the first Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, so facing another Power Five conference school is appealing. Texas and Baylor may not accept bowl bids, so TCU is very much a possibility. The Broncos and Horned Frogs have played in three bowl games and one memorable conference game. The Cactus will have second pick, so if it’s not Vegas for Boise State, it might be hard to pass up the Broncos.
ARIZONA (Dec. 30)
Opponent: Sun Belt (Idaho?)
Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said the Vandals prefer to play in this game. And it’s against the Mountain West. Would there be an in-state battle for the first time since 2010? It’s in play. However, Idaho players have publicly said they prefer to play elsewhere, plus the intrigue might be high in the Gem State, there’s little appeal outside of it. Also to consider, the game will be online-only to many viewers, though it likely would be picked up by the American Sports Network in some areas.
Here’s what I currently see as bowl destinations:
Las Vegas - Boise State
New Mexico - New Mexico
Poinsettia - Wyoming
Famous Idaho Potato - Colorado State
Hawaii - Hawaii
Cactus - San Diego State
Arizona - Air Force
The Mountain West has a new vacancy, as Nevada and coach Brian Polian have parted ways. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman first reported it Sunday afternoon, and soon after was made official by the school. Polian went 25-27 in four seasons at the helm of the Wolf Pack, including a 5-7 mark this year. Nevada won 45-10 at UNLV on Saturday.
Just a few hours later came news of another opening: Football Scoop reported San Jose State has let go of coach Ron Caragher. The Spartans went 19-30 in four seasons, including a 4-8 record this year.
Boise State’s 27-20 loss at Air Force on Friday knocked the Broncos out of the Associated Press and Amway coaches polls Sunday. The Broncos are the second team outside the top 25 receiving votes in the AP, and the first team out in the coaches poll.
Here’s how I voted in the AP poll:
2. Ohio State
8. Penn State
10. Oklahoma State
12. Florida State
13. Western Michigan
14. West Virginia
19. Virginia Tech
20. South Florida
24. Boise State
The Mountain West announced Sunday that Wyoming will host San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game Saturday, kickoff set for 5:45 p.m., televised on ESPN.
Also, the conference will announce its all-conference team and players of the year Tuesday.